Saturday, December 30, 2006


I received the following questions by e-mail and decided to include it and my reply (with permission) on my blog.

“I had a quick question for you, though I don't know how ‘quick’ it really is. I am trying to do ‘research’ on a question, and, naturally, didn't know where to start, so I decided I would consult a few pastors I know and trust!”

“My question is more of a scenario (it is not my scenario, but it is applicable): If a woman feels the Lord is calling her to go (be it to missions or something else) and her father says ‘No, that is not the Lord's will for you,’ what does she do? Is it a sin to not follow where she feels the Lord is calling her, or is it a sin to go against what her father believes is the Lord's will? Is there any Biblical basis for this? Is the Old Testament scenario about ‘If a daughter makes a vow before God and her father overhears he can release her from that vow’ applicable still?”
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I believe that there are clear biblical answers to your questions, although there will probably be many who disagree with me. I will try to deal with the relevant Scriptures.

I’m assuming that the woman you are speaking of is old enough to have left home, or though living at home is capable of leaving. I’m also assuming that her father is a believer and is sincere in his convictions.

First, the command, “Children obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20) is in the context of the home, and does not apply to older children. While we are to honor our father and mother, this does not always include obedience.

Even though the New Testament gives clear instructions about authority, this does not constitute a “chain of command.” Rather we obey, submit, etc., because God has placed authority figures over us. We might say that is part of His method of governing. Romans 13:1-7, though speaking of human government, makes this clear. Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-21 also speaks to this issue. He tells servants to be submissive even to unreasonable masters, and even to the point of suffering, not because they are part of the “chain of command,” but because of our conscience, our witness and the example of Christ.

But there are exceptions. When the apostles were commanded by the religious authorities of their day to stop preaching Christ, they refused to obey (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29).

So the principle is simple (though not always easy): We are to obey God at all times. One aspect of that obedience is submission to human authority as long as that authority does not demand disobedience to God’s clear commands. But when the human authorities demand of us disobedience to God’s clear commands, we are to obey God. This obedience/disobedience may cost us dearly, as the Scriptures and history bear out. Remember Micaiah? Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego? Daniel? The long string of martyrs from the first century till now?

Now I’m not saying this young woman should just “blow-off” her father’s desires. She is to honor him. She needs to find his reasons for saying “it is not God’s will for you.” Perhaps he knows something about her that he feels might cause her to fail. She should seek his wise advice.

Secondly, we don’t need to “feel” a subjective “call” to missions to go. We have the clear commands of Jesus to go. Matthew 28:19, 20, is a command. It doesn’t require feelings. Also see Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46, 47; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8. These commands are not just for the Apostles and a few “called” 21st century Christians, they are for all of us. Our only problem is determining how and where to go.

Thirdly, Jesus’ call to discipleship demand that we choose Him over all other relationships. These include father and mother as well as others. For example, see Matthew 10:37-39: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.“ Jesus even warns that this can lead to family conflict. Verses 34-36: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Look at the three would-be disciples in Luke 9:57-62. Jesus seems to be demanding of them that they turn their back on their family.

I don’t believe the Old Testament teaching on vows is directly applicable to believers today. The Mosaic Law is part of the covenant God made with Israel, and while it gives us some clear illustrations of God’s regard for vows, we are to obey the Law of Christ. See Matthew 5:33-37. In verse 34, Jesus says, “But I say to you, make no oath at all, …” In verse 37, He says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’; and anything beyond these is from the evil one.” We should be careful about making vows.

Hope this helps.

Bill Ball

Thursday, December 14, 2006


In the little book THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE, the author, John D. Barrow, attempts to explain, in words understandable by laymen, how he believes the universe had its beginnings about 15 billion years ago in what is commonly known as the “big bang.” He speaks of an “initial singularity” at the beginning, at which “all the mass in the universe is compressed into a state of infinite density” (pg. 37). A bit further on (pg. 45), he asks a number of questions: “If the universe did begin at a singularity from which matter appeared with infinite density and temperature, then we are confronted with a number of problems in our attempts to push cosmology any further. ‘What’ determines the sort of universe that emerges? If space and time do not exist before that singular beginning, how do we account for the laws of gravitation, or of logic, or mathematics? Did they exist ‘before’ the singularity?” His answer is quite astounding: “If so -- and we seem to grant as much when we apply mathematics and logic to the singularity itself – then we must admit to a rationality larger than the material universe.” Earlier (pg. 27) he says “ … the starting state of the universe must have been very highly ordered, and hence extremely special and perhaps governed by some grand principle of symmetry or economy.”

The apostle John begins his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (1:1-3). Our English word, “Word,” is a translation of the Greek word “Logos.” Now, logos means much more than our English translation would have us think. John was using one of the most complex and profound theological and philosophical concepts He could find. THE GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON of Liddell & Scott, takes 2-1/2 pages to define Logos – 5 columns – 3-1/4 inches x 9-1/2 inches each of very fine print.

The word had a broad range of meanings over almost a thousand-year history. Though sometimes it had the meaning of “verbal expression or utterance,” it rarely meant a “single word,” but “usually a phrase.” However, among the various other definitions given, were “proposition,” … “reason, ground” … “reason as a faculty” … “creative reason.” Perhaps “rationality” would not be an incorrect translation.

Logos was also used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament – ca. 200+ BC) to translate the Hebrew “Dabar” – “word” (Psalm 33:6; ”by the Word of the LORD, the Heavens were made”).

So maybe Mister Barrow is on to something. Perhaps he and John are saying the same thing. If we replace John’s “Word” with Mr. Barrow’s words, we have “In the beginning was the ‘grand principle of symmetry or economy’, ‘the rationality larger than the universe’ and the rationality was with God and the rationality was God.”

I believe Mr. Barrow is “not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

But we must go farther than scientific hypotheses can take us. John goes on in verse 14 to tell us that the Word not only was the origin and originator of all things, but that the Word entered into and became part of the universe that He had created. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And that’s what we celebrate at this season of the year.

Bill Ball

Friday, December 8, 2006


When some friends of mine who are in the ministry told me they belonged to an organization called the “Free Grace Society,” I asked them who Grace was and if she had been incarcerated unjustly. I had this mental picture of people with placards bearing this slogan, picketing at Huntsville State Prison.

Then it was explained to me that this was an organization to promote the teaching and preaching of “free grace.”

Now, I don’t belong to this organization, but I am in agreement with their objectives. However, I have some questions:
-- Isn’t this redundant?
-- Isn’t grace, by definition, always free?

Apparently some think not. And many more are uncertain.

“Grace” has become another one of those terms that has to be defined by a synonym, like “true facts.” (See CHEAP GRACE.)

I guess a definition is in order here. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology says: “ … its meaning is that of undeserved blessing FREELY bestowed on man by God – a concept which is at the heart not only of Christian theology but also of all genuinely Christian experience” (pg. 479).

Berkhof’s Systematic Theology says it “ … generally means favour or good-will. … The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit” (pg. 427).

When we speak of God’s grace, we may be speaking of any number of “favors” that God extends to man (and woman), but we are primarily speaking of His grace in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”)

We are reconciled to God through the death of His Son. (2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”)

All that is required on our part is faith plus nothing. (Romans 4:5: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”)

These passages and many others like them seem to be clear, yet there are many who object. And it gets personal. I have been accused by some of my students and others, “You are teaching that all a person has to do is make a profession of faith and then they can live as they please! Those people who do this aren’t saved!”
Some object that there must be some sort of “commitment,” along with faith, or that faith must be redefined to include commitment. Others object that there must be some criteria used to distinguish between “true believers” and “professing believers” (by the way, neither of these is a biblical term).

Apparently, according to these objectors, I am sending people to hell by preaching and teaching the gospel!

This is not just some minor (or even major) doctrinal disagreement. This goes right to the heart of what Christianity is all about. It is an either/or. (Galatians 1:8: “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”)

So in reply, I’d like to say the following:
1. Our salvation is totally based on the work of Christ on the cross. It is His work completely. No one can add anything to it. He died for ALL of our sins.
2. Our receiving of that salvation is by FAITH, not by “profession of faith.” These are two different (though not unrelated) matters.
3. Grace can be abused. As any parent knows, there will be those children who see freedom as an opportunity to sin. God’s children are no different than ours. There are those who say, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8). But possibility is not permission.
4. We are not the arbiters of who is saved and who is not. God is. He alone can see whether faith is real or not.
5. Christianity is not primarily a moral code. It is first of all a religion of rescue. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
6. It is only AFTER we have experienced the grace of God in Christ that we can do works pleasing to Him. We will fail often. But our eternal salvation is based on that initial faith in the finished work of Christ, not on our successes and failures afterward.

Bill Ball